The Promised Return of the Culture Hero

Ever since, his coming has been anticipated and it is said that when he returns there will be no more fighting and trouble and he will bring much knowledge and wisdom with him.
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

I have gathered here some examples of various tribes’ traditions that involve a promise from their respective culture hero to return. 


The first example comes from the last chapter of On the Trail of Elder Brother: Glous’gap Stories of the Micmac Indians, by Michael B. Running Wolf & Patricia Clark Smith. Below are selected quotes from the prophecy I find particularly relevant to us today. The full prophecy can be read in the book and is worth a read.

“‘By now, I have taught you all you need to know in order to live well in this world,’ he replied. ‘You may fear that this is not the case, but it is so. And when the time comes, I promise you I will return. Only one thing remains to be given to you, and that is a knowledge of things that will come to pass before I come back to walk among you once more. I’m going to give you that knowledge now.’”“‘Far off is another invasion,’ Glous’gap continued. ‘In enormous canoes bearded men are coming from across the Great Waters of the Sunrise. Those wooden canoes are as many as the snowflakes of winter. These people are white, and they are like hungry, unenlightened children. They will take this land and its lakes and forests away from you. They will almost destroy it, but the time of the destroyers will come to an end. When their children become as your children, then their time closes.’”“Now the Lord of Beasts and Human Beings opened his eyes and smiled at the people. His love for them shone in his eyes. ‘I’m going far to the north to make a place for you,’ he told them. “No person can come there while still alive. You can travel there only after you die in this earthly world. I say to you, build your wigwams facing the sunrise, and wait for my return. Always live your lives in a sacred manner, just as I have been teaching you to do all along. If you fail to do so, remember that there is a place of Darkness that lasts forever, and that is where you will come to dwell.’ “’Do not worry,’ he ended by telling them. ‘I will come back to you. I will raise you up from the burial mounds, and I will call you down from the scaffolds of the tree burials. I’ll return. Watch for me!’ “Now is was truly time to say goodbye, and Glous’gap passed among the crowd of people and creatures, with a word for each one.”

In the quoted parts of this passage there is similarity between Glouscap’s promise to return, and his prophecies to that of Christ in the New Testament (which could be attributed to the influence of early Christian missionaries) and those of Christ in the Book of Mormon (the similarity of these prophecies were not had by early Christian missionaries).

This passage from the Book of Mormon describes part of Jesus the Christ’s visit to His people on the American continent, when He teaches them about His return, and like the passage of Glouscap, His promise of resurrection.

And he saith, These scriptures which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you, for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations. And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory — yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapped together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away, and even unto the great and last day when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil; if they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life, and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation — being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand, according to the mercy, and the justice, and the holiness which is in Christ, who was before the world began. 3 Nephi 11, paragraph 6

Glouscap’s prophecy about the coming of white Europeans to this land as destroyers is echoed in the Book of Mormon as well. Significantly more is written about this in the Book of Mormon, referring to the Europeans as the “gentiles.”

And after that ye were blessed, then fulfilleth the Father the covenant which he made with Abraham, saying, In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed, unto the pouring out of the holy ghost through me upon the gentiles, which blessing upon the gentiles shall make them mighty above all, unto the scattering of my people, O house of Israel. And they shall be a scourge unto the people of this land. Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fullness of my gospel, then, if they shall harden their hearts against me, I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father. 3 Nephi 9, paragraph 8

A lot more is told in this chapter about the gentiles and Christ’s people in this land than what I have shared here. I highly recommend a thorough reading of it.

Also stunningly coincidental is the phrase Glouscap is quoted as using about the white Europeans’ children “becoming as your children.” This mirrors as passage from Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will lift up my hand to the gentiles and set up my standard to the people. And they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. Isaiah 17, paragraph 8

I think it’s possible this prophecy by Glouscap identifies his people as those this is prophesying about in the Bible. This passage is quoted in the Book of Mormon as well (three times!), as applying not just to Jews, but to the Lord’s people in this land too.

Here the passage is expounded on in 2 Nephi:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them. Wherefore, the gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel. Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and they who shall be numbered among thy seed, for ever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands. Wherefore, I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God. 2 Nephi 7, paragraph 4

Glouscap promised that the European’s children would be as his peoples’ children, and the Book of Mormon prophesies through the words of Isaiah that the people of this land’s children would be carried as the gentiles’ own children. I don’t know exactly how this will look, but I do believe this will happen, if it hasn’t already, or isn’t in the process of happening now.

The last similarity I see in this depiction of Glous’cap is in his care for each individual that came to see him off. He passes among them “with a word for each one.” This is like the individual care and attention of Christ when he first appeared to the people of the Book of Mormon:

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them, saying, Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet. And this they did do, going forth one by one, until they had all gone forth and did see with their eyes, and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety, and did bear record that it was he — of whom it was written by the prophets — that should come, and that when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying, Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus and did worship him. 3 Nephi 5, paragraph 5

Christ allows a personal moment for each individual to come and know Him from what is described as a “great multitude.” That must have been a very time consuming thing! While Glous’cap did his in farewell, and Christ did His in greeting, yet these two figures seem to have had a similar heart in what they did.


In, The Manitous, by Basil Johnston, p. 95, the author describes the Ojibwe culture hero’s promise to return.

“In the end, years later, Nana’b’oozoo left his home, his family, and his village, accompanied only by his grandmother aboard his canoe. No one was on shore to bid him farewell. Some say that he left his village and the people in disappointment, heartbroken by their rejection of him and by their turning away from him to accept the pale-faced latecomer and his new ways. They say that he also left word that he would return some day when his people were ready to welcome him into their lives once again.”


According to Truth of a Hopi, by Edmund Nequatewa, p. 48, the Hopi have a long held belief that their culture hero will also return.

“All this time the Hopi seemed to know that the real Bahana was coming, but they were warned to be careful and patient, for fear it might not be the true Bahana who would come after the Spaniard or Castilian. So if he ever did come they must be sure to ask him about his books, which they thought would contain his secrets, and it was said that the book of truth would not be on top, but at the very bottom, after all the other books. If he asked the Hopi for the privilege of teaching them his language and taught them how to write, they must be sure to ask that they would like to be taught in the book of truth, because if he was a true Bahana he would quickly consent to teach them of this book. For their belief is, that if he is not the one they are looking for he will refuse to teach them his religion. Now if they learned his religion they would compare it with their religion and ceremonies, and if these were alike they would know that the Bahana had been with them in the beginning.
 “Most everybody was anxious to see the Bahana come, for they were so afraid that he might not come during their lifetime and they would not be able to enjoy all the benefits that he was to bring back with him-for the Bahana was supposed to bring great knowledge with him. These people were telling their children that the Bahana was wise and with his inventions had reached the rising sun and was coming back to them again, for they had seen the big eastern star and that was a sign and they were waiting for him. Every grandfather and grandmother was telling their children that they were growing so old that they would not see the Bahana. They would tell their grandchildren to go out in the mornings before sunrise with sacred corn-meal to ask the sun to hurry the Bahana along so that he would come soon.
 “Well, I guess many years had passed, probably a century. You know, some were rather suspicious and they would say that when the Bahana came he would know who was practicing witchcraft and that he would know them by sight. They said that he was to come and make peace and do away with all evil so that there would be no more trouble. And so, for this reason, the people who had so much trouble were the most anxious to see him come.”

An endnote in the book describes the Bahana this way:

“The legend of the Bahana, white brother, or white savior of the Hopi, is firmly established in all the villages. He came up with the people from the underworld and was accredited with great wisdom and he set out on the journey to the rising sun—promising to return with many benefits for the people. Ever since, his coming has been anticipated and it is said that when he returns there will be no more fighting and trouble and he will bring much knowledge and wisdom with him. The Spanish Priests were allowed to establish their Missions in the Hopi country because of this legend, for the people thought that at last the Bahana had come. Since that time they have suffered many similar disappointments, but they are still expecting the arrival of the ‘true Bahana.’”

I know a lot of times references in native belief that sound a lot like the Christian teachings of Christ are attributed to the influence of early Christian missionaries, but again, that reason does not explain that this prophecy was the reason those missionaries were initially welcomed. I don’t deny there must have been some influence, but it appears that various tribes had these beliefs and prophecies beforehand. This supports the words of Christ in Jerusalem, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” It also supports the words of Christ during His visit in this land from the Book of Mormon:

And verily I say unto you that ye are they of whom I said, Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. 3 Nephi 7, paragraph 3

And a few sentences later He declares that there are more of His people beyond these two groups as well:

And verily, verily I say unto you that I have other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice, neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them. But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore, I go to shew myself unto them. 3 Nephi 7, paragraph 3

I find the passage about Bahana being able to recognize those who practice witchcraft by sight interesting because there is a similar passage in Malachi, which words, according to the Book of Mormon, Christ gave to the people here during His visit, since they did not have them.

And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts. 3 Ne. 11, paragraph 1

Lakota, Nakota, Dakota (Sioux)

The Sioux have a culture hero who has also prophesied her return.

The Sacred Pipe, p. xix

“We have been told by the white men, or at least by those who are Christian, that God sent to men His son, who would restore order and peace upon the earth; and we have been told that Jesus the Christ was crucified, but that he shall come again at the Last Judgment, the end of this world or cycle. This I understand and know that it is true, but the white men should know that for the red people too, it was the will of Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit, that an animal turn itself into a two-legged person in order to bring the most holy pipe to His people; and we too were taught that this White Buffalo Cow Woman who brought our sacred pipe will appear again at the end of this “world,” a coming which we Indians know is now not very far off.” Black Elk

It has been a failing of Christianity in general that we neglected so much that is sacred and important from other cultures because it fell outside the understanding of our religion. Black Elk in these words seems to be asking us to take seriously what his people hold sacred, just as he and his people have been asked to do with Christianity. This particular scripture comes to mind.

And now behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up. T&C JS History 10, paragraph 17

The knowledge of God we bring each other, should build what we have received from Him already, and not destroy what we have.

More about White Buffalo Calf Woman can be read at this link:

“When White Buffalo Calf Woman promised to return again, she made some prophecies at that time.
 “One of those prophesies was that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it would be near the time when she would return again to purify the world. What she meant by that was that she would bring back harmony again and balance, spiritually.”

In Black Elk’s version of White Buffalo Calf Woman, she administers to the people on behalf of the Creator, “Wakan-Tanka,” much like Christ does.

(Edit: Since posting this, I have written in more detail about the symbolism of White Buffalo Calf Woman in this two part series)

The symbolism she comes in, the buffalo, is also interesting and bares some symbolism. In The Sacred Pipe, p. 9, the woman is quoted as saying:

“Behold this pipe! Always remember how sacred it is, and treat it as such, for it will take you to the end. Remember, in me there are four ages. I am leaving now, but I shall look back upon our people in every age, and at the end I shall return.”

A footnote to this section says this:

“According to Siouan mythology, it is believed that at the beginning of the cycle a buffalo was placed at the west in order to hold back the waters. Every year this buffalo loosed one hair, and every age he loses one leg. When all his hair and all four legs are gone, then the waters rush in once again, and the cycle comes to an end.
 “A striking parallel to this myth is found in the Hindu tradition, where it is the Bull Dharma (the divine law) who has four legs, each of which represents an age of the total cycle. During the course of these four ages (yugas) true spirituality becomes increasingly obscured, until the cycle (manvantara) closes with a catastrophe, after which the primordial spirituality is restored, and the cycle begins again.
 “It is believed by both the American Indian and the Hindu that at the present time the buffalo or bull is on his last leg, and he is very nearly bald.”

This tradition of the buffalo losing a leg and hairs during each age fits the theme in Christian and Book of Mormon scripture of gradual loss of truth and eventual apostasy from when divine messengers originally delivered it. The answer to this is a renewal from heaven. We have reached an age of the last leg of the buffalo in Christianity, Mormonism, and in the traditions and faith of the Native American, and an age of renewal where heaven delivers it anew is upon us.

The Introduction of the Teachings and Commandments in my scriptures speak these four ages in the terms of generations.

“Following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, the saints floundered without a prophet, and it wasn’t long before the restoration that Joseph had established found itself in apostasy. With the death of Eldred G. Smith in 2013 (Eldred being the fourth generation from Hyrum Smith to serve as Patriarch to the LDS Church), the heavens were once again opened, and the Lord set his hand again the second time to recover his people (Jacob 1:4; emphasis added) and to establish Zion.” T&C Introduction

(Note: this apostasy is not acknowledged by the LDS church, nor is how the heavens have once again been opened that this mentions)

The theme of the ages as generations was used by Christ as well in the Book of Mormon as He prophesied to the people:

And now behold, my joy is great, even unto fullness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation, for none of them are lost. Behold, I would that ye should understand, for I mean them which are now alive of this generation, and none of them are lost, and in them I have fullness of joy. But behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation from this generation, for they are led away captive by him, even as was the son of perdition, for they will sell me for silver, and for gold, and for that which moth doth corrupt, and which thieves can break through and steal. And in that day will I visit them, even in turning their works upon their own heads. 3 Nephi 13, paragraph 1

Six Nations/Haudenosaunee/Iroquois

I’ve read a lot about the Peacemaker of the Six Nations, but this Mohawk prophecy is the first one I have seen that promises he will return.

“Whenever the people forget their teachings, the Creator calls upon the Sky Dweller beings to reintroduce what was forgotten. So throughout history, they’ve been sent here when we got unruly or forgot our spiritual teachings. Every once in a while, one of them is born to deliver a message from the Creator about what we should be doing. That’s where our Great Law came from. The Bringer of that Great Law was our Peacemaker. “When the Peacemaker came, He used the Tree of Peace, and he said at the base of the Tree would be Four White Roots, for east, north, west and south. That would proclaim the peace of nations in the world. That’s been in effect for many centuries, since he was born here as the Peacemaker.  “The Real Iroquois never say the Peacemaker’s name, except when they’re raising a chief, or having an official reading of the Law. And it has to be prayed on, or tobacco burnt for it. But commonly, we never say that name, except with kids. I can tell my young son or daughter that name. But when I tell them, I say, ‘I’m not going to tell you anymore. From here on you’ll never say that name.’ “We don’t say that name, because there’s a prophecy: when you hear people say that name, we are coming toward the end of the civilization of the world, where the world will something like almost end, and another one will start in a different way – a purification. The prophecy says that there will come a time when there will be discord amongst the leaders, and the people, and things will get really bad, like we’ve never seen before, in terms of disunity – great disrespect going on between humans. And that time is when there will be three left that still believe in what the Creator gave us. Nobody understands what it means when they say three left – if it’s three nations, or three clans or three people. But whatever it means, three will be left. And they will go into the virgin forest, when they find it, if you can find it, where the big trees are – a real forest. And they will build a sacred fire there. And at that time they will cry the Peacemaker’s name three times. And then the Peacemaker will come back to lead us from all this turmoil, again. And so that’s why we’re not allowed to say that name just anytime. Only when we’re truly desperate will we cry it in that ceremony, and then he will come back. But if you say it every day, when you really need Him, He thinks you’re just talking about his name – he’s not going to come back. “In the prophecy of the Great Law, it talks about that: when you hear people saying that name in regular conversation, that’s one of the signs we’re headed towards the other world. We tried telling some young people that, and they don’t listen. But that’s also part of what they told us would happen.”

It’s hard not to draw a parallel to the Six Nations’ Peacemaker and the Prince of Peace. But I will have to devote that to another post. What I will comment on now is the similarity in symbol of the Tree of Peace to the parable of Zenos. Even the symbolism in the wampum belt signifying this union of the original Five Nations, to me evokes imagery strikingly similar to that parable.


Edit: Since originally writing this I have come across another instance of the Peacemaker promising to return. The selected quotes below are pulled from this source: Wampum and shell articles used by the New York Indians

“After they had ratified–it was understood–we look far away and we see a darkness, and in the darkness an unknown and strange face, and they could not understand what it was–and it came to be interpreted that we would be forced to adopt an unknown law but it was coming before that generation passed away, and finally their heads would roll and roll away, and after a time they would recover their bodies, and then they would embrace the law that was once lost to them, and the tree would grow forever. After they will restore the original law their confederation will be more permanent than the first one, and their original law will remain forever.”

“It is claimed that he did not die, but went up in his canoe and said: “When you shall be in a state of confusion I will come back.”

“Hi-a-wat-ha would come again, but when he did not say. He did not die, and when he came again he would renew the old, and it would be stronger than then, and that is the expectation we have.”
Accidentally, this section continues a natural theme that was started in the previous Sioux section about the cycle of a people forgetting the Creator’s teachings and the need and purpose of renewal.

Leave a Reply

You might also enjoy

What is Power?

What a strange thing it would be to find a king that chose to set aside the usual tools of force and fear, to instead rule by patient persuasion and love. And yet this is exactly how God “rules” his people.

Nana’b’oozoo’s Restoration

Then the presiding Midewewinini shot the candidate with the Midemegis. The candidate fell dead, unmoving. The Midewewinini revived him with the breath of life, as Odaemin the first medicine man regained life. The candidate stood, renewed, and new.